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Capital campaign, campus improvements focus of New Orleans trustee meeting

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–In addition to celebrating Chuck Kelley’s fifth anniversary as president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, trustees were involved in campus improvement activities, such as the official public inauguration of the seminary’s capital campaign, during their March 13-14 meeting.

Trustees joined Foundation Board members, faculty, students and staff in a special March 13 chapel service publicly launching the “New Horizons: Equipping Leaders to Change the World” campaign, NOBTS’s fund-raising effort to revitalize its campus, provide for a multitude of student needs and continue to carry out its mission to provide Southern Baptists a theological education that will make a difference in the approach ministers use to serve their congregations, ultimately resulting in a revitalization of Southern Baptist churches.

A four-phase project that will span over two decades, the New Horizons campaign was approved by NOBTS’ trustees in March 1999, by the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee in the spring of 2000 and by messengers to the SBC annual meeting last June in Orlando, Fla. The public phase begins with Phase I of the campaign, which has the fund-raising goal of $8 to $12 million over the next three years to fund the following priorities: Bunyan Classroom Building ($2 to $2.5 million), the refurbishing of the seminary’s main classroom building because of extensive termite damage; Student Family Village ($4 to $6 million), much-needed student housing; and endowment ($2 to $3.5 million) for scholarships for students and their children, faculty/staff development and academic program enrichment.

“I believe in this New Horizons Project because I know it’s not about revitalizing a seminary, it’s about revitalizing our churches, and helping our churches find a way to learn to grow again,” Kelley said, pointing to the 70 percent of Southern Baptist churches that are plateaued or declining.

Noting the forthcoming rebuilding and consistent upkeep of campus areas funded by the New Horizons campaign, Kelley said it is essential to add maintenance funding stability to the seminary’s overall budget.

In an effort created to raise the profile of issues relating to the seminary’s facilities and to give maintenance issues a more significant place in its strategic planning process, trustees elected Chris Friedmann, the seminary’s director of facilities/maintenance for the past seven years, as associate vice president of operations.

In what is labeled “The Excellence Initiative,” named after the seminary’s core value of “Characteristic Excellence,” trustees also approved the addition of one new maintenance staff position a year for the next five years; the establishment of an “Excellence Fund,” an endowment fund with its interest earnings to be spent only on maintenance of the seminary’s facilities and grounds; and the establishment of permanent Maintenance Priority Task Force, consisting of the president, vice president for business affairs, provost, dean of students and the associate vice president of operations, who will meet on a monthly basis to determine maintenance needs and priorities, ensuring direct involvement of the president, and providing a way for the concerns of both students and faculty to be represented in decisions about maintenance priorities.

In other financial measures, trustees approved the 2000-2001 budget, which includes an average 3 percent raise for seminary faculty and staff, and a modest increase in the maximum tuition cap. Explaining that the maximum tuition cap will the raised from $1,200 to $1,300, Vice President for Business Affairs Clay Corvin pointed out that NOBTS students still save about a combined $825,000 to $850,000 a year because of its existence, compared to the other six seminaries that have removed the cap.

In his report to the trustees, Kelley gave credit to President Emeritus Landrum P. Leavell II and the seminary’s trustees for their leadership in building previous endowment for the seminary and for providing a smooth transition for his presidency.

Pointing to the seminary’s vision, purpose, five core values and target, Kelley explained that he began his presidency with three questions: Where will the seminary be located? What will we teach at the seminary? What will we do with this campus?

In answer to the first question, Kelley said NOBTS would be located “here and there,” wherever there are people in need of theological education. The seminary would remain at 3939 Gentilly Blvd. in New Orleans for various reasons, he explained, but theological education would also be accessible elsewhere: in the seminary’s 16 extension centers across the Southeast; via Compressed Interactive Video to link the classrooms across the sites; and the NOBTS “virtual seminary” on the Internet.

Because of the opportunity for ministry in the New Orleans urban environment and because of signs of economic recovery in the community, the decision was made for NOBTS to remain in its current location, Kelley said. Solidifying that decision has been the renovation of the major classroom building, the Bunyan Building; the construction of new faculty homes; the upcoming ground-breaking this fall of the Student Family Village; and the current renovation of student dorms and other buildings on campus.

Kelley also reported that the seminary’s 1999-2000 enrollment was at an all-time high, with 2,019 full-time equivalent students, 1,484 of whom were on-campus students. Noting that the actual head count enrollment is more than 2,900 students, Kelley anticipated that the seminary would soon cross the 3,000-student threshold for the first time ever.

Kelley also recognized the seminary’s pace-setting faculty who use innovation and the latest technology in the classrooms, noting accessibility to the Internet in the Bunyan classrooms as a prime example. He also affirmed the scholarly pursuits of the faculty, noting, for example, the Center for New Testament Textual Studies led by Bill Warren, which has one of the largest collections of Greek manuscripts to be found. He explained that the center is working with the International Greek New Testament Project, accumulating and collating Greek manuscripts to be used in an upcoming edition of the Greek New Testament.

Another scholarly endeavor at NOBTS is the Youth Ministry Institute led by Allen Jackson, which has developed a new way of developing youth ministry training, in a forum where students interact and learn from national experts in the youth ministry field. Kelley also cited YMI’s groundbreaking study on television violence and its effect on children’s behavior.

Kelley reported about how the seminary’s endowment has grown from $25 million to more than $38 million in the past five years.

Kelley finalized his remarks by answering the question of how the Baptist General Convention of Texas decision to not support the SBC’s six seminaries has affected NOBTS. Although it is too early to give a complete response, he said, the seminary has been very conservative fiscally and was glad to see that last month’s Cooperative Program income, the first month affected by the BGCT decision, was up 11 percent from last year’s income at this time. He also reported that a great majority of Texas churches appear to be not going along with the BGCT decision thus far and are still giving money to all SBC causes.

“Thus far the biggest effect of the attempt of the BGCT’s leadership to defund the six seminaries has been forcing us to delay starting new housing for our students,” Kelley said. “The new housing is a great need for student families. If Texas churches will continue their support of the Cooperative Program, we plan to break ground for new apartments in the fall.”

In other news, trustees:

— elected two new faculty members, both of whom have been serving at the seminary by appointment. Previously appointed as the director of student enlistment, Tate Cockrell, former director of ministries for the Fort Worth-based Dawson McAllister Association, was elected as instructor in psychology and counseling, and Jeffrey Williams, a former pastor in Saline, Mich., was elected as assistant professor of pastoral ministry in the College of Undergraduate Studies. Perry Hancock, former associate dean of graduate faculty, also was named dean of graduate studies.

— approved the following faculty for tenure, each of whom have served at NOBTS since 1996: Jerry Barlow, associate professor of preaching and pastoral work; Becky Lombard, assistant professor of music theory and organ; Will McRaney, assistant professor of evangelism; and Michael Sharp, assistant professor of music theory and piano.

— approved the following faculty promotions: Philip Coyle to professor of psychology and counseling, serving since 1990; Becky Lombard to associate professor of music theory and organ, serving since 1996; Michael Sharp to associate professor of music theory and piano, serving since 1996; Will McRaney to associate professor of evangelism, serving since 1996; and Francis Kimmitt to associate professor of theological studies, College of Undergraduate Studies, serving since 1994.

— approved preliminary sabbatic proposals for the following faculty: Becky Lombard (2002-2003); Walter Brown (2002-2003); Jerry Barlow (2002-2003); Will McRaney (2002-2003); Thomas Strong (Spring 2003); and Bill Warren (Spring 2003).

— Approved final sabbatic proposals for the following faculty: Dennis Cole (Fall 2001); Allen Jackson (2001-2002); Jim Shaddix (2001-2002); and Perry Hancock (summers 2002 and 2003).

— approved the financial report that indicated that the audited statements of investments were sound and according to the seminary’s policies.

— approved NOBTS’ membership in the Louisiana Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.

— approved a change in name of the “Landrum P. Leavell Center for Evangelism and Church Growth” to the “Landrum P. Leavell Center for Evangelism and Church Health.”

— elected by acclamation the board of trustees officers for 2001-2002: Michael Claunch as chairman; Ron Yarbrough as vice chairman; and Ken Fryer as secretary.

    About the Author

  • Shannon Baker

    Shannon Baker is director of communications for the Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South Jersey and editor of the Network’s weekly newsletter, BRN United.

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